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    Review of STONE COLD by Robert B. Parker


    G. P. Putnam's Sons, September 2003

    When a dead body turns up with two bullets, fired from different guns, police chief Jesse Stone knows he has a problem. When a second body has the same wounds, he knows he has a pair of serial killers on his beat. But knowing about serial killers and finding them are two different things. Especially when the killers seem to plan their strikes carefully and their escapes even more carefully. Jesse's small-town police department becomes even busier when a high school girl is gang-raped by three schoolmates. Jesse has no evidence and the rapists threaten to ruin the girl's life if she tells, but Jesse intends to bring whatever justice is possible.

    Jesse's professional life is busy, but his social life is packed. He can't get over his ex-wife and she certainly won't let him. And every other woman he meets, with the possible exception of one of his fellow cops, is ready to fall directly into bed with him. Jesse is willing to do the bed thing, but he makes it clear that he's waiting to resolve things with the ex-wife--and the resolution he wants is a return to their marriage. Since their relationship seems completely sick (as confirmed by their psychologists), that isn't an especially desirable thing for the reader but it is what Jesse wants.

    Robert B. Parker (see more reviews of novels by Parker) is an excellent writer. His characterization of Jesse Stone is strong and rings true. Jesse tries to live his life by a sharply defined set of rules--love is forever, justice is important, revenge is worth having, physical violence can solve problems or at least make things feel better, and talking too much is a big mistake. Jesse's treatment of the young rape victim is sympathetic and nicely handled.

    Fans of Robert B. Parker won't be surprised by the difficult relationship Jesse maintains with his ex-wife--this is a recurring theme in Parker's fiction. Jesse knows he would be better off if he could just get over Jenn but he can't. From a reader's perspective, I certainly wish he would. The woman simply isn't good for him. Rules and ethics or not, I find Jesse less sympathetic and more pathetic because of his hopeless love affair. STONE COLD is a short novel with plenty of white space. I wish that more had been devoted to the mystery and less to Jesse's miserable love life--especially since all sorts of attractive, friendly, and relatively healthy women are lining up to spend time with him.

    Two Stars

    Reviewed 11/26/03

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